*Note: As a disclaimer, these are my opinions, not necessarily shared by my school or district.*
Yesterday, I read this article. I’m not in a position to comment on teacher prep programs nation-wide, but in my mind there is a much bigger issue.
Do we need great teachers? Yes!
Do teacher prep programs need to prepare teachers better? Probably, because we can always use improvement, right?
Are there issues within schools, districts, classrooms, etc that need to be addressed? Sure.
That said, there are obviously some awesome teachers (and schools and districts, etc) who are accomplishing great things…and there are teachers whose effectiveness probably needs to improve. However, I think there are more of the former than the latter!
I’m going to call out the big elephant sitting in the middle of my classroom and probably many, many, many others.
First of all, I am not in an inner-city area. I am not at a 99% low-income school (although for a year I did teach in this setting and in school with these challenges). Regardless, it is not uncommon to hear comments along these lines:
-Isn’t the school supposed to teach that? (Often referring to social skills or even basic skills such as tying shoes.)
-Those are reading glasses, so he/she will never need to bring them home. He/she only needs them when reading or writing something.
-I don’t want to do a parent-teacher conference this year. (Almost always said regarding students who really need one.)
-Can’t my student stay for homework club? Then, he/she can just play Xbox when he/she gets home and it’s a lot easier that way.
I understand parents are busy. I understand parenting is difficult. I understand work is stressful and time-consuming.
But, somehow I feel that we have a culture of “blame the school.” A student may walk in the door late, hungry, lacking sleep and without a backpack. We feed the child, give him/her school supplies, warm clothes when needed, provide him/her support with behaviors or academics or homework.
Amazingly awesome and fabulous volunteers are in the building to read with students every day. These people may come during their lunch hour, multiple days each week, just because they did it once and saw how big the need was. Teachers may willingly give up their lunch or prep time to mentor students who need a role model. Aides may spend their entire after school time tutoring (for no additional pay) students who need more support. Principals and social workers may give rides when there are no other options. Families may receive donated beds or couches or high chairs because school personnel realized the need.
And, maybe, despite all of this, the child doesn’t reach grade-level expectations this year. (And, believe me, teachers are so disappointed when they can’t quite get a student there! We know how important it is for their futures!)
When evaluating the child’s academic success to rate the school’s performance, it doesn’t matter if the student ever did homework or read a book outside of school. It doesn’t matter much if no one showed up for conferences, if notes home stayed in the backpack for months, if we gave this student multiple backpacks because he/she continued showing up without one. No one asks the student if his/her ability to learn was impacted by moving multiple times this school year, by divorce or custody changes, by having no one who even asked about homework – let alone checked to see if it was finished or offered to help. No one asks if this student’s family made time for multiple sports teams, but could never find the time to read a book or finish 4 math problems at home. The evaluation simply evaluates the school’s ability to help the student make academic gains.
When schools fail? It is all our fault. Rarely are parents or guardians mentioned.
When we succeed? There is occasionally recognition. But, in general, the success is expected…regardless of any other factors.
We need strong education. We need education that teaches kids to learn, that shows them how to succeed and prepares them for careers that may not even exist today and that use technology years from even being invented. We, as a country and a society, need this.
And teachers? We need parents/guardians to be our partners in getter there.
Thanks to all those parents who are partners for their children’s education!